Attack on Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Attack on Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

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December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor (Hawaii Operation or Operation Al).  A day in which President Roosevelt proclaimed “a date which will live in infamy”. This battle was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the US base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese intended this attack as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the UK, the Netherlands and the United States.

353 Japanese Fighters, bombers and torpedo planes attacked in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one mine-layer.  One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed and 2,402 Americans were killed (1,282 wounded). Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded.  One Japanese sailor was captured.

The attack came as a real shock to the American people and led directly to the American involvement in World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. December 8th, the following day, the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for isolationism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of Britain was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Stars were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor.Additionally, a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the lives lost on the day of the attack. Visitors to the memorial reach it via boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Alfred Preis is the architect responsible for the memorial’s design. The structure has a sagging center and its ends strong and vigorous. It commemorates “initial defeat and ultimate victory” of all lives lost on December 7, 1941. Although December 7 is known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is not considered a federal holiday in the United States. The nation does however, continue to pay homage remembering the thousands injured and killed when attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Schools and other establishments across the country respectfully lower the American flag to half-staff.

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